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Bristol University mourns the passing of 'visionary' former Vice-Chancellor

The highly esteemed former Vice-Chancellor at the University of Bristol passes away after short battle with cancer.

By Ellyssa Ashley RozahanNews Investigations Editor

Following a short battle with cancer, Professor Sir Eric Thomas, the former Vice-Chancellor at the University of Bristol has sadly passed away at the age of 70 on Friday, November 10. 

Born in 1953 in Hartepool, and educated in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Sir Eric had gone on to make significant contributions in both fields of medicine and education.

Before coming into the University as the Vice-Chancellor, he had specialised in obstetrics and gynaecology, and published over 150 papers on infertility and endometriosis. 

University of Bristol became a global centre of academic excellence under the leadership of Sir Eric - Milan Perera

Sir Eric’s career in teaching started off as a Lecturer at the University of Sheffield, advancing to Senior Lecturer at the University of Newcastle, before being appointed the University of Southampton’s Professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology.

He had spent some time as the Head of School of Medicine at Southampton before moving up as the Dean, and eventually found himself as Bristol’s Vice-Chancellor in September 2001. 

Professor Evelyn Welch, the current Vice-Chancellor and President, described the former Vice-Chancellor as one with 'vision, leadership, and commitment.'

She added: 'He will be remembered fondly for all his achievements while at Bristol that helped not only those in the local community but also across the world. Our thoughts are with his wife Narell, his children Rachel and David and the wider family at this very sad time.'

Professor Evelyn Welch lauded the leadership of Sir Eric during his tenure as the Vice-Chancellor - University of Bristol

Sir Eric came into Bristol with a primary goal of increasing teaching quality, improving the research done at the University of Bristol, and enhancing the student experience.

Furthermore, he focused on establishing clear career pathways for academics who want to focus on teaching. His efforts were rewarded when the research at Bristol received wider recognition at an international level. Currently, the University of Bristol is well placed within the top 100 global universities with a diverse population of students from over 150 countries.  

In honour of the advancements he made for the higher education, Sir Eric had received a knighthood in the 2013 Queen’s Birthday Honours for his two year tenure as the President of the Universities UK, and as a founder member of the Worldwide Universities Network. 

Jack Boyer, Chair of the Board of Trustees said: 'Sir Eric was one of the architects in shaping the future of higher education. He was a great advocate of both the University and city, and helped champion educational philanthropy, internationalisation, the commercial exploitation of innovation...'

Featured image: University of Bristol

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